Viral Social Media Content Sparks Outrage and Threat Perception, Research Finds

According to a study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it was found out that a sense of being viral produces outrage and threat to the person. When new trends emerge on social media and become viral, they become a source of harmful issues and can range from economic to climate conditions. On social media, virality means the number of likes and comments a post has acquired. When the likes and comments on a post are higher, it creates a sense of panic and concerns and users pose it as a threat.

Any content that is related to threats in society becomes a source of outrage when it becomes viral. These outrages become more powerful if the said threatful content is opposing the views of a society or talking about a political opposition. In the study, the researchers analyzed different posts about climate change, immigration and Covid-19. The researchers found out that the posts that were stating some different point of views were shared widely and attracted more replies that were expressing anger.

The team of researchers did some experiments with 1500 people. The reason for the experiment was to find out how these participants reacted to tweets that were shared a lot and the ones that weren’t shared that much, and to find out how these people would react to tweets according to their own perceptions. In one part of the experiment, the participants were shown tweets that were talking about some political parties that the participants were supporters or not supporters of. The reactions of the participants were observed according to how they perceived danger in the tweets and which responses made them angry. The next part of the experiment was to show these participants some prejudiced tweets and analyze the emotional and behavioral responses of the participants in terms of virality of the tweets.

The researchers recorded the difference of reactions of participants on annoying tweets and tweets that were harmful and prejudiced. They even made a new hashtag to see how the participants will perceive a new trend if it gets viral. The experiment was concluded after assessing which factors angered the participants, as well as which factors made them worry and sad. Participants were also evaluated on the basis of their reactions on viral tweets on the basis of likes and shares and viral tweets on the basis of the person who has tweeted.

From this experiment, the researchers found out that the posts that become viral on social media are more likely to get opposed and produce harmful emotions like anger. The posts who talk about genuine concerns also elicit deep reactions. The researchers say that they will also do an experiment in the future that will be about virality of a post in terms of trending topics and volume of posts about an issue.

Image: DIW-Aigen

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